Fantastical 3Source: Lory Gil/iMore

Flexibits just updated its Fantastical line of apps across the board to its third iteration. It's got so many new and awesome features that you won't even notice all of them right away. From weather reports to collaborative meeting time proposals. Fantastical has it all and then some. I'm finally ready to let go of my other calendar apps and just stick with this one. There's a lot to unpack here, so let's get started.

Fantastical 3

Bottomline: With this update, Fantastical basically has it all. And with a premium subscription, you'll also always get the updates even if it doesn't currently have everything you need.

The Good

  • Beautiful redesign
  • Tons of new features
  • Dozens of features don't require a subscription
  • Upgraders keep Fantastical 2 features
  • Apple Watch app is stand-alone

The Bad

  • None

Personal rant

Let me take a moment to put some people on blast

I have to start off by saying how disappointed I was to see so many one-star App Store reviews for Fantastical with users hating on the subscription model and wanting to keep Fantastical 2. These haters have got it all wrong. Let me explain.

First of all, Fantastical is not subscription-only. It's still a wonderful calendar app if you don't want to pay for the many dozens of extra features. If you want to stick with a free version of Fantastical, and you've never downloaded the app before, this is what you get:

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  • The same basic calendar features with adding and managing your calendar accounts
  • The same awesome reminders and tasks lists, including support for iCloud Reminders, Todoist, and Google Tasks (you just can't add tasks from Fantastical)
  • The same weather forecast support from AccuWeather (it's only three-days out instead of 10)
  • The same awesome natural language new event input
  • The same calendar set options
  • The same views, Lock screen widget, and Menu Bar add-on

It's still a fantastic Fantastical. There are just some new features that cost Flexibits money to run (like managing invite proposals). If you need those extra features, $40 per year is a small price to pay.

The features I listed above are actually for those that either never upgraded from Fantastical 1 or for those that have never used Fantastical before. If you're upgrading from Fantastical 2, you still get to keep Fantastical 2's great features!

This is the part that disappointed me so much in the App Store review section. People are complaining that they think Flexibits is forcing them to pay a subscription price to get the great features they are used to from Fantastical 2, but they're wrong. Let me break it down for you. If you already had Fantastical 2 and you're updating (or already updated) to Fantastical 3, these are the additional features you get that no one else gets for free:

  • Full-screen day, week, month and year views on Mac and iPad
  • The option to run in the background for the mini window on Mac
  • Full task support (including adding tasks in Fantastical)
  • Fantastical is now universal (not separate for iPad)
  • Stand-along Apple Watch app
  • Autocomplete recommendations for people and places
  • Adding invitees to new events
  • Attachments for Mac
  • Calendar sets for Mac
  • Travel Time/Time to Leave alerts on Mac
  • Push Notifications for Google and Exchange on Mac
  • Default alerts for new events
  • Time zone overrides
  • Invitations and ability to respond in Fantastical

These are special gifts that Flexibits has given to us, it's loyal customers, for supporting Fantastical 2, and some people feel justified giving a one-star review because they don't like the subscription model. It just burns me up inside.

Speaking of subscription models, Flexibits isn't turning to this model simply so it can make more money. From the company blog, in addition to extra costs associated with running Fantastical 3, the company is moving to a more flexible upgrade cycle that gives us any and all great new features as they are ready. We don't have to wait two, three, or even five years for one big package of upgrades.

This is not about charging you a monthly fee just to get you to start paying monthly. We already have a big roadmap laid out where we can develop consistently and ship great new features and content on a consistent basis. We are looking forward to our new, predictable business where we get rewarded for our work as we do it.

Now that you have a better understanding of what the difference is between Fantastical 2 and Fantastical 3 and why Flexibits has gone to a subscription model, please hop over to the App Store and give it a proper and knowledgable rating.

On with the show

Fantastical 3 has everything

Fantastical 3Source: iMore

If you are the kind of person that needs a robust and feature-rich calendar app, you're going to understand why this many features needs a subscription model and why it's worth the price (especially if you pay for a year upfront). There are dozens of new additions, from little things like custom event colors and alert sounds, to big things like event time proposal management. Let me start with the big ones.

Event time proposal management is probably Fantastical's biggest new feature and it allows you to schedule an event and suggest multiple date and time options to have invitees pick from. The invite is sent to everyone in an email, so even people that don't have Fantastical can participate. Everyone is directed to a web URL where they pick from the options presented. If everyone picks a date and time that works, the event is automatically added to your calendar. If everyone can't make it at the same time, you'll receive a notification that none of your times worked and you'll have to propose some new times.

Fantastical 3Source: iMore

No more texting back and forth (or in the case of my job, sending Slack messages back and forth) all day until a good time is finally picked. Just send out a message and let Fantastical do all of the scheduling.

My favorite part about this feature is that invitees don't have to be Fantastical users in order to participate in picking a time. Everyone can pick. Fantastical users get the event added automatically once it's been confirmed unanimously.

Another big feature comes in the form of tasks. You've always been able to see and take action on your iCloud Reminders, but Fantastical 3 takes it a step further with the integration of Todoist and Google Tasks. Now, not only can you see and tick the done box on daily single items, but you can also see, edit, add to, and tick off sub-tasks for projects.

If you want to add a task right in Fantastical, all you have to do is start typing the word "task" into the add field and it will switch from the event view to a task view. Then, just type the task you want to add and it'll be added to your task list (you can also choose which list to add it to). You can also switch to a view that only shows your task list instead of your daily event list.

Fantastical 3Source: iMore

With events and tasks, you can also create templates to use any time you want. It's different from recurring events or tasks. This is for when you do something often, but it's not always the same day or time. If, for example, you get a haircut every six weeks, but it's not always the same day and time, create a template that you can quickly use when scheduling the next haircut appointment.

You can now include travel time with location-based events. First, add the location of the event. Then, open the event's additional features to get the "Travel Time" feature. Using your current location and the location of the event, Fantastical will estimate your travel time. You can even add additional travel time manually (because, you know, traffic). With travel time turned on, you can get alerts to let you know when you should leave.

Fantastical has added a fun new feature called "Interesting Calendars." Fantastical uses the SchedJoules API to bring pre-made events from holidays, sports, TV, Finance, and popular events to your calendar. Tap one of the categories, like sports, then pick a sub-category, like your favorite team, and add it to your calendar. Then, you'll be able to see all of the games scheduled for the season.

Fantastical 3Source: iMore

Fantastical has also teamed up with AccuWeather to provide the daily forecast. With the subscription model, you can see 10 days out. Events that have a location attached to them will also display weather details for that specific area.

With Time Zones, you can easily see what time it will be for people in a different time zone. This is invaluable in my remote work environment. We live all over the world, so I've added their different locations for my co-workers to my favorite time zones. Now, I can see what time it is for everyone at a specific time and take that into consideration when creating a new event.

For those remote meetings, as I have all the time, you can add a remote meeting link from Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Google Meets. I do this all the time for Google Meets, but I normally have to go directly to my Google calendar in order to add the meeting link.

With a fantastical subscription, you can also change the color of events, combine duplicate events, hide events, change the Home screen icon, use custom alerts, and more.

Fantastical is also now a stand-alone app for Apple Watch that doesn't even need iPhone support if you've got the cellular model. You can check your events, get notifications, and more while your iPhone is at home. With a subscription, all of your calendar sets and customizations sync across all of your devices, including Apple Watch.

This is all just what's available today, at launch. Flexibits also has a number of updates and new features in the pipeline that will roll out throughout the year. As a subscriber, you'll get all of those features, whenever they are ready, instead of having to wait for a dot update or full revamp a few years down the road.

It's worth it

Who should subscribe and who shouldn't

Fantastical 3 Fantastical 3 Fantastical 3Source: iMore

You're at a crossroads here. You used to pay for Fantastical's major updates, one version at a time, one app at a time. But now, you can download all of the apps for free on Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch, but it comes at the cost of a subscription.

Fantastical 2 came in at $5 for the iPhone version, $15 for the iPad version, and $50 for the Mac version for a total of $70 if you wanted all three. For $40 per year, you can have all versions of Fantastical 3. Assuming a major update every two years across the board, you'd only be paying about $5 more to upgrade all of these apps anyway. Of course, it's not a direct comparison because Fantastical on the Mac didn't have a regular upgrade cycle.

Here's the thing though, your subscription helps Flexibits regularly add awesome new features that you don't have to wait two years for. Plus, with this reliable revenue coming in, the developers can imagine a whole lot more that the company wouldn't have otherwise been able to afford to do on a monthly basis.

The features that come with a Flexibits subscription are many. However, not everyone needs things like meeting time proposals or travel time notifications. If you don't check your calendar about 25 times per day, if you don't map out every hour of your life with lists, events, and tasks, you may be happy with the free version, especially if you're a Fantastical 2 user.

If you are a Fantastical 2 user and you really hate change, stick with your special upgraded version. You get more than a dozen free features that non-upgraders have to pay for. You win either way.

If you only ever used Fantastical on your iPhone, I don't think you need a subscription. The free version will probably fit your basic needs.

If you've had Fantastical for iPhone and iPad, but never went for the Mac app, you're kind of in the middle. I'd recommend delving into the free 14-day trial to see if there are any features you just can't live without. Remember, if you're upgrading from Fantastical 2, you get a lot of great features without needing to subscribe, so you might be better off sticking with your free upgraded version.

If you've always paid for Fantastical's apps across all of your devices, you're like me and you know just how invaluable all of these great new features are. You know they're worth dropping $40 once per year on. You just might be feeling a little subscription fatigued. Think of it this way: You're just paying for two major updates upfront and in exchange, you get the benefit of a company that doesn't have to wait to give you all the awesome goodies the developers come up with all year long.

Fantastical 3

Bottomline: With this update, Fantastical basically has it all. And with a premium subscription, you'll also always get the updates even if it doesn't currently have everything you need.

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